People often get confused about the difference in terminology when discussing marketing via search engines. This is an educational discussion we have with clients all the time. If you’re unclear yourself, these are the definitions.
The Definition Of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
I use the phrase Search Engine Marketing (or SEM for short) to describe any marketing activities done through search engines. This is an umbrella phrase that includes beneath it Search Engine Optimization as well as Search Engine Advertising.
The phrase is often used to refer to a campaign that includes both kinds of search marketing.
The Definition Of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the practice of working to ensure that your content gains visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) so that it is easily found by people who are searching for that type of content.
Though it does not involved paying directly to ensure your content gets seen in search engines, SEO is not without costs.
Effective search engine optimization requires a skilled practitioner who understands, among many things:
- The audience you want to reach,
- The search phrases they use to find content
- The content they value,
- How content is published online,
- How search engines index content,
- What factors search engines consider for ranking content,
- What factors people consider for trusting content in search engines, and
- How to analyze successful SEO efforts.
Search engine optimization is a long-term effort that, when done right, can continue to pay dividends years after the original content was created and optimized. I personally have a blog post that I wrote in 2008 that is one of the biggest drivers of traffic to one of my blogs and remains so to this day.
The Definition Of Search Engine Advertising
Search engine advertising is, as the name says, advertising you buy through search engines. It is the links that appear at the top (sometimes the sides) and bottom of the search results.
These links are set apart from the main (often called “organic) search results with a label declaring them Ads or Sponsored Results.
You buy these ads by bidding on the keywords that trigger them and you typically pay for the ads on a cost-per-click (CPC) or an impression basis. While search advertising is often also referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, that term also applies to banner ads and promoted social media posts.
Costs can vary wildly for search engine advertising from industry to industry and can fluctuate during the course of a given campaign because you are buying in an auction setting where you are bidding against other advertisers for your chosen keywords.
The keyword research service WordStream publishes an annual report on the most expensive keywords. While you can find plenty of keyword that will cost you pennies a click, they can reach as high as $55 a click for “lawyer.”
The two main players in search engine advertising are Google AdWords and Bing, though you can buy search advertising via many niche search engines as well.
Get The Success @ Creative PR Newsletter
The mission of the Success @ Creative PR newsletter is to help you succeed in your communications career by giving you valuable tips, trends, cool tools, insights and inspiration that will help you throughout your career. Get new marketing stats every week! Click the button below to subscribe: